I see that it was in March 1968 that the students of five high schools across the fourth street bridge in East Los Angeles walked out of their classrooms in order to make their voices heard. They stood in defiance of rules barring them from so much as even uttering a word in Español at their schools, in protest of being paddled in front of their whole class by teachers and administrators for doing so, and in ire at being left by the state to sift through worn and torn books abandoned by more affluent white high schools on the opposite side of the bridge.
In 2008 I saw that at the end of the school-year at LAUSD, a school district in which over 74% of students speak a language other than English at home, only 48% of students graduated from the district, meaning more students were dropping out than leaving these schools with their diplomas. Unlike in 1968, however, there were no protests regarding these conditions.
In 2012 I saw a community college system in California that stifled the progress of Black and Brown bodies with useless math and “remedial” English classes that fractured their progress as undergraduates at every step of the way, eventually turning these students away from the state’s colleges altogether.
I then saw that in the ninth greatest economy in the world, the liberal dream state, or the home of Silicon Valley, where Brown bodies, or people who speak nomas un poquito de Español en sus casas make up nearly 50% of the state’s population, only 11% of this segment of the population has a Bachelor’s Degree.
I saw this after I watched some of the best minds of my generation in Los Angeles, teenagers who could have been doctors, professors, artists, musicians and far more, ransacked by methamphetamine addiction and its criminalization. Before them, for Generation X in the 1980s, it was the crack cocaine epidemic. In 2018, it is Molly, Xanax, OxyContin, and more.
This is as my generation and I are forced to watch the invasion of our neighborhoods by white wealth, which is moving with the same organized violence against my pueblo’s character as that of 50 years ago.
But now I can also see how “the other” is necessary for the legacy of white supremacy to survive, as necessary as it was over 500 years ago when the first colonizers arrived to the islands of the Western hemisphere to massacre the indigenous people who made their lives here; the colonizers knew early on that “the others” had to be maimed and then made inhumane in order for them to validate the exploitation of their character and that of the resources around them. Today the colonizers no longer arrive in wooden ships upon natives, but they arrive in the form of real estate evictions and rent hikes upon tenants. A war of attrition.
It does not end there, however. It only begins. I can also see that from Orange County to Los Angeles, to Ventura County and Santa Barbara, onto Fresno, Solano, Modesto, Stockton, Sacramento, and the Bay Area, it is the bodies of young Black, Brown, and “others” whose entrapment and displacement together account for over 90% of the state of California’s “juvenile” cases, aiding and abetting the survival of a multi-billion dollar police state here.
I then see how in addition to the state’s incarceration, probation, and other forms of entrapment of California’s Black and Brown bodies, the state also contracts “shadow” organizations or “nonprofits” it oversees and regulates to apply services to these bodies. Once these shadow organizations deem their services applied, though only to a select portion of these disenfranchised Black and Brown bodies, both the state and its partners are proud to tout such “reformed” Black and Brown people as “examples” of change or what could “one day” be of more of them.
At the same time I see that the people overseeing these services maintain the same white power structure, that is, of liberal white men and their peers claiming leadership, differing little from those service-providers who “corrected” my peers 50 years ago, and who “civilized” my people across the American continent long before then.
And so I see that in 2018 many in “the resistance” who like to think of themselves as helping the helpless are actually just helping themselves, signing the contracts, citing the services, and professionalizing the process over the long term in order to assure the state’s backing and its survival rather than assuring a reduction of its assault on Black and Brown bodies or otherwise dismantling.
I see many even in “the resistance” taking and brandishing the intellectual property of these Black and Brown bodies. “Advocates” getting awards off these Black and Brown bodies. “Counselors” getting grants off these Black and Brown bodies. Even “Marchers” getting paid off these Black and Brown bodies.
In turn, I see white guilt relieving itself in a country that is still shooting, maiming, and incarcerating more Black and Brown bodies with the day at the same time that it employs its court systems to further degrade and demoralize our conditions, and to justify such degradation and demoralization afterwards.
And I see that in 2018, the democrats are touted as our only hope in a U.S. Congress currently dominated by a republican majority, as if Black men and their families should forget how they were sent to prison at the highest rate of all time under a democratic president in the 1990s. And as if immigrant families should forget that Obama deported more economic refugees seeking shelter from U.S. destabilization policies abroad –primarily women and children– than the previous three presidents combined.
I further see that since 2016 in California there’s ruled in the state a democratic majority, which nonetheless makes for legislative sessions that are more interested in expanding California’s prison systems than the state’s universities. See Senate Bill No. 776, or Assembly Bill No. 2028.
California could likely be Clinton’s most prized tough-on-crime jewel; over the last thirty years it saw the largest expansion of the prison industrial complex in the country, which now increasingly contracts the private sector to lock up more Black and Brown bodies; so-called undocumented Black and Brown bodies. But the state of California also saw an expansion of its “shadow” organizations or shadow “services”, many of which in 2018 enjoy claiming responsibility for the “reform” of great portions of those same Black men incarcerated in the 1990s. As such, it is just a matter of time before many of these same groups claim responsibility for “services” applied to “undocumented” Black and Brown bodies as well.
Finally, I see my boy G, who is 12 years old and now a student at LAUSD, and one of the sharpest minds I’ve seen through my neighborhood in a generation. Like his peers 50 years before him and prior, he lives in a home without his father, but he must also face a mother in that home who doesn’t know how to nurture or appreciate his mind. G’s life is at risk.
He could be a champion for his pueblo, but the numbers speak for themselves. There is a higher chance of G’s going to prison than the state’s colleges for no other reason than his and his family’s coming from the pueblos.
I see hatred of G’s condition. But I also see collusion in his condition.
I see silence about G’s condition, its normalization.
And this is not all I see. But it is just enough.
Students; Professors; All:
Moving forward with your movements, keep this information close:
There are generations of violence they’ve inflicted on our bodies going back longer than one moment can recount.
Now, we’ve got to be careful with how we distinguish the different mechanisms of this violence. From our school systems, to rent hikes, to evictions and the courts which support them, to incarceration, surveillance of our public transportation, and even the organizations we join in resistance to these things: we’ve got to be careful not only with recognizing the system in its normalcy out in public, but even with those we call allies in the work of resistance to that same system in our more private movements; the state is widespread, covert and overt, and if we’re not careful to trace our steps as we move forward, the state is just as much with us as we hope to be against it.
Let us still be against it.
Let us be against it for the students of L.A. in 1968. But let us also be against it for the students of L.A. in 2008. Let us be against it for G.
For you and me, and the pueblo we all share.
The pueblo of Los Angeles.